Gay Debate: Liberals Versus Evangelicals

Published on 29th July 2008

The Conference Logo
As the Lambeth conference in England continues with guests from the 38 autonomous provinces of the Anglican Communion participating, it remains to be seen whether or not divisive issues such the ordination of gay clergy and blessing of same-sex relationships will break its unity. Amid speculation of a possible divide, Monicah Kimeu of The African Executive met Ben Keya, The Programs Director, African Institute for Contemporary Mission and Research (AICMAR) and filed this story.

Why do we have the Lambeth conference?

The Lambeth conference was initiated to unite the expanding Anglican church. The Lambeth conference is held after every 10 years with the bishops from various semi-autonomous dioceses forming the delegates. Every diocese in the Anglican Church is semi-autonomous but is linked to the mother church in England.During the conference, doctrinal issues in the church are tackled and resolutions made.

What is the African stand on the controversial gay issue ?

The Anglican Church comprises of Liberals and Evangelicals. These groups view issues in different ways. The African church is more evangelical and is opposed to gay ordination and recognition of same-sex marriages. That is why some clergy such as Nigeria's Archbishop Peter Akinola have boycotted the conference. Although Kenya's Arch Bishop Benjamin Nzimbi said he would not attend, ten of his bishops are reportedly in England to discuss collaboration programs with partner dioceses. The gay debate in my opinion has shifted to the wrong quotas. Earlier on, it was centered on issues of orientation but it now has something to do with economics and  church survival.

You mean the debate is not purely doctrinal ?

Clergy at the Lambeth Conference
If it were doctrinal, the West would  also argue on doctrinal grounds.The debate as far as Africa is concerned is now economic. African Bishops are attending the Lambeth conference to network, establish contacts and fundraise for their churches. The gay issue does not matter to them as long as they find donors.On the other hand, most Bishops have never traveled to Kent before. Why should they miss this tourist opportunity? 

Is Christianity a Western religion?

Christianity wasn’t brought to Africa by missionaries  as some believe. The bible clearly depicts incidents where Jesus took refuge in Africa in the 1st century.  The first Christian nation was in Ethiopia as confirmed in the book of Acts. The presence of Africa in the bible is very obvious as the late Prof Kwame Bediako puts it. It was Christ who brought the missionaries to Africa again, having been here before. In 1054 AD, there was a great divide between the East and the West (Constantine and Rome). Rome became the centre of Christianity. As Christianity is dying in the West, it is gaining ground in Africa. Christianity transforms cultures and becomes a culture. By no means is Christianity alien to Africans. 

Are African church leaders portraying the true image of the church? 

I am worried that most church leaders don't live up to their titles. Christianity is about transformation. If you are transformed, you don’t look at things the same way. The recent post election skirmishes in Kenya saw church leaders take sides. This clearly shows they have not been transformed; they are still Luo, Luhya, and Kikuyu. Christianity in Africa is an inch deep, that is why the West does not take us seriously, even on gay issues. 

What can the African Church do to have its own stand on issues?

As long as the church continues to rely on finances from the West, it will be controlled, manipulated and compromised. If the church does not invest in knowledge and strive to be economically viable, it will always be controlled from the West.

What should the African church do to be self sufficient?

It must be  be entrepreneurial.  It must not dwell on distant heavenly concerns at the expense of everyday life. We live in a body and this body needs food, shelter, clothing and  health among others. As we address spiritual concerns, we must address wealth creation and productivity. We must reverse the English saying: 'as poor as a church mouse.' Who said that the church is a place for the poor and failures? Churches must inculcate discipline and values of excellence in their faithfuls!

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